US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's May 25 announcement that the Biden administration will ask Congress to allocate $75 million in aid to the Palestinians and that Washington will reopen the US Consulate in Jerusalem is sending the wrong message to the leaders of the Palestinians. Pictured: Blinken (left) speaks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on May 25, 2021, in Ramallah. (Photo by Alex Brandon/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's May 25 announcement that the Biden administration will ask Congress to allocate $75 million in aid to the Palestinians and that Washington will reopen the US Consulate in Jerusalem -- which previously had served as a de facto embassy handling US relations with the Palestinians -- is sending the wrong message to the leaders of the Palestinians.
First, these overtures signal to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas that the US will support and lavish funding on any Arab leader who seriously abuses not only his own people but also his neighbors. This policy would also include leaders such as Vladimir Putin in Russia, Xi Jinping in China and "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenei in Iran, as well as other despots.
One pretext for the war that Hamas initiated was that Abbas had cancelled parliamentary elections to have been held in May and July. The real reason the elections were canceled was that they would have resulted in another victory for Hamas.
Hamas won the last parliamentary election in 2006 due to the Palestinians' frustration over the rampant political, administrative and economic corruption in Fatah, the dominant faction of Abbas's PA.
The Biden administration -- by offering Abbas more money and reopening the US diplomatic mission that deals directly with the Palestinians -- is actually rewarding Abbas for those attributes.
By engaging Abbas and sending the top US diplomat to meet with him in Ramallah, the Biden administration is telling the Palestinians that it does not care either about human rights or responsible governance.
It is telling the Palestinians – as well as leaders worldwide -- that the United States and the Biden administration have no problem dealing with a leader who misgoverns his own people, who incites them to violence and who does not have the slightest intention of educating his people for peace with their neighbor.
The Biden administration, in addition, is telling Abbas that it has no problem with him continuing to run the PA as a one-man show while cracking down on his political rivals and social media users for daring to speak out against corruption and human rights violations in the PA-ruled areas of the West Bank.
On the eve of Blinken's visit to Ramallah, Abbas's security forces arrested a number of Palestinian political activists on suspicion of "insulting" senior Palestinian officials on various social media platforms or during rallies in the West Bank.
When Abbas announced his decision to postpone the elections, he made extremely serious -- and extremely false -- charges against Israel. Abbas said he was holding Israel responsible for hindering the vote, which Israel had not done, and for carrying out "assaults" against the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, which Israel also had not done.
It was, in fact, Abbas's harsh rhetoric against Israel that contributed to the eruption of violence on the streets of Jerusalem, where Palestinians physically attacked police officers and Jewish civilians.
On May 18, Abbas announced in front of the Arab Parliament, the legislative body of the Arab League, that he was planning to prosecute Israelis for committing "war crimes" for responding to the rockets and missiles that Iran's proxies, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, had fired into Israeli territory.
The $75 million aid package for the Palestinians that Blinken intends to ask Congress to approve will most likely just end up helping Abbas in his effort to file "war crimes" lawsuits against Israelis in various international forums, including the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is also trying to indict Americans.
Ironically, the same Abbas who told Blinken that he (Abbas) is committed to a peace process with Israel is the same Abbas who also wants to see his Israeli "peace partners" put on trial at the ICC.
Abbas, in other words, wants to make peace with the Israelis, but only after he gets them handcuffed and imprisoned for alleged "war crimes." Needless to say, this is the same Abbas who does not dare to call out Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad for their war crimes of firing 4,000 rockets and missiles indiscriminately into Israel.
While Blinken has rewarded Abbas financially, he has also given Hamas a political gift in the form of reopening east Jerusalem's US diplomatic mission. The consulate used to serve as a liaison to the Palestinians until the Trump administration merged the consulate into the new US Embassy in Jerusalem.
Hamas launched its recent war on Israel professedly because of Jerusalem. Hamas told the Palestinians that it was firing rockets and missiles at Israel as part of its campaign to "liberate Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa Mosque from the Zionist enemy." Hamas even named its war on Israel "Sword of Jerusalem."
The real reason Hamas launched its war, though, was apparently to gain more power throughout all the Palestinian territories, as it had been hoping to do in the elections, before they were suddenly cancelled.
Hamas then seems to have decided, possibly with the urging of Iran, to try "Plan B": a show of strength to show the Palestinians who was the real "strong horse" -- and to further weaken Abbas, whose political power exists only because Israel provides full-time security for him.
Hamas's goal was to send a message to the Palestinians and the world that the Jews have no rights in Jerusalem; that it is exclusively an Arab and Muslim city, and that only Hamas can deliver it. Hamas also possibly wanted to show the world that contrary to Israel's claim, Jerusalem is not a united city where Arabs and Jews live together.
The reality, like it or not, is that Hamas and the PA both want the same result: the destruction of Israel and its replacement with an Islamic state. They just differ about how to get there. Abbas would prefer to do it diplomatically, by having international groups declare a State of Palestine, which could then, if necessary, be used as a launching pad from which to conquer the rest of the territory; Hamas, as in its charter, prefers to seize all the land militarily, through jihad. Neither the PA nor Hamas has the slightest interest in any kind of peace with Israel.
Now comes Blinken and announces the reopening of the consulate in the city. Here is how the Palestinians understand his gestures: If you fire 4,000 rockets and missiles at Israel, you get a US consulate in Jerusalem and millions of dollars of US taxpayer money. It works! The solution, then, is to keep on doing it!
By reopening the consulate, Blinken is also telling both Hamas and Abbas that the US does not recognize Jerusalem as the united and undivided capital of Israel. Blinken has also sent a message to Abbas and Hamas that former US President Trump's formula of "peace for peace" in the Middle East is off the table; they no longer need to worry.
Abbas and Hamas had denounced Trump's plan as a "conspiracy to eliminate the Palestinian issue and rights." Now, Abbas and Hamas are rubbing their hands because, the way they see it, the Biden administration has actually just achieved their goal of scrapping Trump's peace plan, "Peace to Prosperity: A vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People." It was supported by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Morocco, as well as by Serbia and Kosovo.
Blinken's visit then, even with the best of intentions, has been a big win for Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and all those Arabs and Muslims who are fiercely opposed to Israel's right to exist and totally reject peace with it.
The Biden administration's decision to resume unconditional financial aid to the PA -- and to Iran -- only means strengthening dictatorships and corruption for those living in the Middle East. It means that Abbas can go on with his autocratic rule and oppressive measures, including depriving his people of a parliamentary government, freedom of expression and equal justice under the law. America's decisions will embolden Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and prove to them that their most recent war against Israel was not in vain.
By rewarding Abbas, Hamas and the anti-normalization camp in the Arab world, the Biden administration has bludgeoned its declared objective of reviving a peace process in the Middle East. It has demonstrated decisively that corruption and dictatorship pay. It has shown that terrorism pays -- to the tune of millions of dollars. Palestinian incitement and violence against Israel are unlikely to recede in the context of such an encouraging outcome.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.